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Thomas Kollin

Why a guilty plea isn’t often the best option when facing charges

On Behalf of | Apr 18, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Movies and television shows about law enforcement and crime make it seem like every person arrested takes their case to trial. The reality of the modern criminal justice system is far different. The vast majority of people or about 78% of those accused of criminal activity in Ohio plead guilty instead of attempting to defend against the charges the state brings. Many people wrongfully assume that cooperating with the criminal justice system yields the best outcomes.

They believe that judges may be more lenient with sentencing them and that fewer people may find out about the criminal charges if they don’t go to trial. The decision to plead guilty comes with several significant risks that people need to consider before determining their response to pending criminal accusations.

Judges choose the sentence

With rare exceptions for cases where a defendant’s lawyer negotiates a written plea deal with the prosecutor, pleading guilty does not necessarily lead to lesser charges or reduced penalties. Judges who accept guilty pleas from defendants can interpret the circumstances and hand down any sentence that they believe conforms with Ohio state law and current sentencing guidelines. Penalties may range from probation and community service to thousands of dollars in fines and a period of incarceration. While people often plead guilty with the expectation of lenient sentencing, there is no promise of lenience just because of a guilty plea.

A guilty plea still leads to a criminal record

Anyone can find out about a guilty plea. The idea that pleading guilty to avoid a trial keeps the case private is inaccurate. A guilty plea ensures that there is now a criminal record attached to someone’s name. Employers, landlords and educational institutions can usually find records of criminal convictions. Even a plea to a lesser offense does not protect someone from the impact of a criminal record. It is common practice to assume that someone was guilty of the offense that the state initially charged them with rather than the lesser offense on their permanent record.

Between the penalties imposed as part of a criminal sentence and the negative impact of a criminal record, a guilty plea can prove devastating for someone’s future. Choosing to fight pending criminal charges is often the best option for those accused of breaking the law. Defendants who explore their options may be able to prevail if they take their cases to trial. Reaching out to the team at the Kollin Firm can help people evaluate their options for mounting a criminal defense.